Dan McLaughlin's blog

Posted at 8:07pm on Oct. 26, 2005 22 Questions for Hugh Hewitt & Other Miers Defenders

By Dan McLaughlin

From the diaries . . .

Hugh Hewitt has propounded 9 questions for Miers critics on the Right (reprinted below the fold).  I was going to post a detailed response, but Patterico, Dale Franks and Jeff Goldstein have said much of what needs to be said in responding to Hewitt.

But here are some questions - 22 of them - for Hewitt and other Miers defenders on the Right.  They don't capture all of the hard questions, but a lot of them for those of us who consider ourselves conservatives and, in general, loyal Republicans, and I would honestly like to hear how Hewitt and other Miers defenders (including those still in the "wait and see" camp) deal with these.

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Posted at 12:24pm on Oct. 22, 2005 It's The Opinions, Stupid (Or: Why I'm Off The Fence And Opposing Miers)

By Dan McLaughlin

From the Diaries...

After weeks of trying to keep an open mind about the Harriet Miers nomination, I've concluded that the Senate should vote down Miers - if her nomination isn't withdrawn first - and force President Bush to nominate someone else.  Let me explain why.

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Posted at 8:16pm on Oct. 19, 2005 Crank's 25 Favorite Books

By Dan McLaughlin

As I see a few other diaries here noting our favorite or influential books, I thought I'd do a little list of my own of my all-time favorite books:

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Posted at 11:29am on Oct. 11, 2005 Q&A on Miers' Qualifications

By Dan McLaughlin

Promoted from the diaries by Erick.

Let's do a little Q&A to tease out my thoughts on Harriet Miers' qualifications:

Read on . . .

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Posted at 7:18pm on Oct. 10, 2005 Why Miers Needs To Know Constitutional Law: A Response To Hugh Hewitt

By Dan McLaughlin

Does it matter that Harriet Miers appears to have almost no record of experience litigating, adjudicating, or otherwise staking out positions on constitutional issues?  I say it does.

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Posted at 10:09pm on Oct. 6, 2005 The Miers Pick: Some Things Are Worth Getting Upset Over

By Dan McLaughlin

As Leon H notes, some folks supporting the Miers nomination seem to think that those on the Right opposing the nomination have lost their perspective.  Now, I wouldn't recommend leaving the party, or staying home for the next election, over this.  But an arguably bad Supreme Court pick is certainly worth getting agitated over.

My question #1 in deciding how mad to get about a decision by our elected officials is, "how hard will it be to change this?"  The budget is stuffed with highway pork?  Bad, but there's another budget next year.  The budget is stuffed with new programs?  Worse, since new programs rarely go away.  The budget is stuffed with new entitlements that put a permanent drain on the federal fisc?  Now, I'm gettin' angry.  But even then, all of those are things a new president could change, if he or she had the votes in Congress.  

But Supreme Court Justices essentially can't be removed, and their decisions live on for decades or centuries after they are gone (many areas of Constitutional jurisprudence are, to this day, the products of John Adams' nominations).   With the (possible) exception of war, no presidential choice has as long-lasting effects as the choice of Supreme Court Justices.  What was worse for America - Jimmy Carter in the White House for 4 years, or Harry Blackmun on the Supreme Court for 30?  I'm not sure I'd pick Carter; at least after 4 years, we got to have another election, whereas after Breyer was confirmed we had to wait 11 years for another Supreme Court vacancy, and these two latest vacancies are to replace judges confirmed in 1972 and 1981.  And nobody now requires presidential candidates to promise not to change anything Jimmy Carter did.

I have not, personally, concluded that Harriet Miers should not be confirmed by the Senate, nor have I concluded that she would not be a wonderful Supreme Court Justice; I'm still waiting to be convinced.  But I can't fault anyone for complaining about the nomination.  This is, to many of us, the #1 or #2 reason (behind only the war) for supporting Republicans for the White House.  If Miers is another Kennedy or O'Connor, we will be grumbling over our disappointment for decades.  If she is (as I very much doubt) another Souter or Blackmun, we will rue this nomination for the rest of our lives.  And even if she is another Thomas, we will be sad if she steps down in 20 years, sad that a younger candidate might have held the fort for longer.

So, yes, this is very much an issue worth getting exercised about.  We will live with its consequences all our days, without a second opportunity to do anything about it.

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Posted at 9:42am on Oct. 3, 2005 Why I'm Not Thrilled with Harriet Miers

By Dan McLaughlin

So, President Bush has chosen White House Counsel Harriet Miers for the next Supreme Court opening.  First of all, a hat tip to David Frum; as I noted back in July, Frum was the first to float Miers' name as a dark horse pick for the Court.  Miers is profiled here by the Washington Post.

Color me less than thrilled.

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Posted at 7:02pm on Sep. 28, 2005 DeLay Indictment: What He's Charged With

By Dan McLaughlin

Here's the indictment in PDF form, via CNN; you can read the whole thing yourself, as it's only four pages.  You will notice that DeLay is not charged with any violations of law in his own right, nor with having committed any "overt act" in furtherance of the conspiracy.  In other words, he's not accused of doing anything.

So what is he charged with?

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Posted at 11:39am on Sep. 27, 2005 Selling Bill Frist Short

By Dan McLaughlin

From the diaries . . .

Well, the latest Beltway feeding frenzy is on, and Bill Frist is the main course.  But I wouldn't go shoving him out the door just yet.

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Posted at 11:05am on Sep. 20, 2005 Gary Ackerman's "Bull____"

By Dan McLaughlin

Apologies for the language presented with ellipses in this item; given the subject matter, there's no getting around it.

From a July 29 press release by my Congressman, Gary Ackerman:

Ackerman noted that "since last fall, I have tried again and again to work with FEMA on this rule so that 9/11 first responders and their families could start collecting the funds raised by the 9/11 Heroes Stamp. But at every step, FEMA - which does a spectacular job responding to disasters and emergencies throughout the country - refused to accept input or provide any feedback as to the content of the rule or when it would be published. I have enormous respect and admiration for what FEMA does in crises, which is why I'm so disappointed in this rule. Unfortunately, more than 45 months since the stamp was created, 38 months since the stamp went on sale, and more than six months since beginning work on the rule, what's been produced is, frankly, half-a_ed bureaucratic bulls_t. New York's best and bravest deserve far, far better than this."

(Emphasis added).  I've omitted the language here, which is unfortunately not omitted from Ackerman's press release.  Isn't this crossing a line that should not be crossed?

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Posted at 8:44pm on Sep. 14, 2005 Making FEMA a First Responder

By Dan McLaughlin

We've heard a lot lately about the notion that FEMA should have taken, and should take in the future, a more leading role in making the federal government, in effect, a first responder to natural disasters and terrorist attacks.  Now, there's a fair debate here over whether the federal government ought to improve its ability to respond quickly with redundant capacity to provide emergency supplies, evacuation, etc. in the event that state or local first responders are for one reason or another incapacitated.

But we should resist, at all costs, the idea (pushed by Mickey Kaus, among others) that the federal government should centralize a greater amount of the nation's first-response capacity.  Let's look at two aspects of this problem.

1. Vulnerability

Let's think rationally here, in terms Osama bin Laden would understand, and we - as long as we're fighting him, or fighting anybody else, for that matter - can ill afford to forget.  We have two choices:

A. Centralize disaster-response with FEMA, with the heads of DHS and FEMA and the President personally responsible for making the crucial decisions.

B.  Decentralize disaster-response, with decisionmaking power in the hands of 50 Governors and scores of Mayors.

Even the leader of a ragtag terrorist operation can tell you that decentralizing authority into local cells that can operate on their own for long stretches makes you less vulnerable to your enemies.  The more we centralize our response to disasters with FEMA, the more we hand our enemies the ability to cripple our response to multiple simultaneous attacks in different parts of the country.  Imagine if Flight 93 had hit the White House - wouldn't it then have been a particularly good thing that Rudy and Pataki could put the NYPD and NYFD into action without awaiting word from Uncle Sam?  Why on earth should our response to this disaster be to centralize rather than distribute our ability to respond in a crisis?

2. Local Knowledge

As critics of the Iraq War never tire of reminding us - and, for that matter, as opponents of the Vietnam War often noted - for out-of-towners, there's no substitute for knowing the neighborhood.  Even closer to home, consider the lesson of the 2004 election.  As was much remarked at the time, outside of the big cities - where Democrats had longstanding political machines skilled in getting voters to the polls on Election Day - Republican get-out-the-vote efforts were generally more successful than those of the Democratic side, in part because the Republican "GOTV" operation was carried out locally by local voters, whereas the Democrats in many areas were dependent upon outside groups.  While you can debate the degree of importance of this factor, virtually every post-mortem on the election concluded that the Democrats need to improve their local grassroots operations.

What has this got to do with disaster preparedness?  Quite a lot, actually.  Just as with voter turnout, getting people to evacuate a city or gather in a safe shelter is a job in which there's just no substitute for local knowledge.  You have to know who lives where, how to persuade them to budge, and you have to know the fastest way out of Dodge.  And even moreso than in doing Election Day turnout, you don't have time to learn all of that in the chaos of a disaster or an attack that may give just a few days' or hours' warning, if even that much.

By all means, let's talk about improving the federal response to disasters; regardless of who deserves credit and blame for the response to Hurricane Katrina, nobody who watched the unfolding of events in New Orleans could conclude that there is no room left for improvement at all levels.  But in so doing, let's not make ourselves more dependent upon Washington and less reliant on the people who are in the best position to know their own turf.

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Posted at 10:36am on Sep. 13, 2005 Time To Plan The Victory Parade

By Dan McLaughlin

June 12, 2007, will mark the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin.  While I suppose I would prefer a more obviously non-partisan anniversary (the 50th anniversary of Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech is in March 2006, which is probably too soon to plan something like this with everything else that's going on), this would seem as good an anniversary as ever to plan something that should have been done long, long ago:  a victory parade in the nation's capital for America's veterans of the Cold War.

In past wars, America celebrated victory with parades suitable to honor the returning soldier.  That was never done for Vietnam, and as far as I know, it wasn't done for Korea, either.  While the veterans of those wars are mostly still with us, it's past time to rectify that omission with a celebration that truly embraces their sacrifice and honors their contribution to ultimate victory over Communism.

The main reasons, I suspect, for not having a formal celebration back when the Cold War ended were (1) the way the "long, twilight struggle" ended in gradual stages and (2) a desire to let sleeping dogs lie by not rubbing Russia's face in its defeat at a time when we were trying to coax it to democracy.  15 years on, those considerations are less pressing.  And it could have a salutary effect in the current struggle to remind the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan that their country has the will to win a long struggle and a long enough memory that their sacrifices won't soon be forgotten, even when we hit setbacks and ask them to fight battles that end with a whimper rather than a bang.

Whether the anniversary of the Reagan speech is used as the jumping-off point or not, of course, there's no reason why a parade honoring veterans of Korea, Vietnam and other, smaller Cold War battles would not be a genuinely bipartisan event, as there are numerous members of both parties in Congress and elsewhere who fought in those wars and would or should be interested in a formal display of honor for their former comrades in arms.

What are we waiting for?

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Posted at 12:11pm on Sep. 9, 2005 Show Me Life, Not Death

By Dan McLaughlin

Jeff Goldstein collects some examples, from Andrew Sullivan and others, of Bush critics calling for the media to photgraph and display the corpses of victims of Hurricane Katrina, presumably as a means of making the president look bad.  Goldstein notes the ghoulishness of this strategy, and its departure from the basics of human decency and respect for the dead.

But there's a more fundamental problem here:  the victims of Katrina, like those killed by hurricanes, wars, terrorist attacks, and other catastrophes both man-made and otherwise, aren't just hunks of flesh made to be grist for political debates.  They were our fellow human beings, and they deserve to be remembered as they were in life, not as their decayed remains are in death.

The New York Times, to its great credit, did an exhaustive, months-long series of obituaries entitled "Portraits of Grief" (now available in book form), which sought after September 11 to show, not the bodies of the victims (and heroes) of that day, but the people, the lives, who were lost to us.  The media has likewise served a useful purpose in the Iraq war when it gives us, rather than casualty statistics or the Koppel-esque reading of laundry lists of names, profiles of the soldiers who have given their lives for their country.  (This includes efforts made more recently to profile Casey Sheehan).  In each case, the simple human truth about the departed is more than enough to sadden and, as appropriate, enrage most people about the loss of each precious human life.

After the deluge in New Orleans, it will be hard, hard work for the media to track down information about the lives of Katrina's victims, especially because so many were poor, or elderly, or sick, because reporters love to talk about poor African-Americans but don't so much enjoy talking to them, and because those who knew them are scattered, almost literally, to the four winds.  And there may well be too many stories to tell them all.  But New Orleans deserves its own Portraits of Grief.  Tell us those stories, about life; if we are not moved, then the dead have lost their power to move us.  But let the bodies of the dead be buried in peace.

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Posted at 11:27am on Sep. 7, 2005 Ironies of the Day (New Orleans Edition)

By Dan McLaughlin

Two of them, from this AP report:

1.  Now, Ray Nagin orders a genuinely mandatory evacuation of New Orleans.  Great timing there.  Yet, even now, we see who continues to drag their feet:

The new evacuation order has been drafted and will be issued shortly, Mr. Nagin said, even though Louisiana state officials question his authority to issue such a command. "I don't care, I'm doing it," he said. "We have to get people out."

2.  Guess who said this, in calling for "an independent commission to investigate the federal response to the disaster, saying neither Congress nor the administration should do it":

"I don't think the government can investigate itself."

Yes, that's right:  Hillary Clinton.  Oh, the irony.

I'm heartened to see that the Senate and House are launching their own investigations; back in the days when John Dingell and Henry Waxman were committee chairmen, Congress didn't punt all of its investigative powers to secretive prosecutors and unelected commissions.  It's about time Republicans acted like they were elected by the people to be in charge.

Inevitably, there will also be an "independent" or "bipartisan" federal commission to study the question, and I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, too, although if it follows the 9/11 Commission model it will consist of Kathleen Blanco, James Lee Witt, a left-wing lawyer and a handful of retired liberal Republicans.  As we have seen in the past, though, such commissions tend to redirect public attention away from the facts (see Claudia Rosett on the UN Oil-for-Food inquiry, due to issue a report today) and to be treated in their bottom-line conclusions as gospel by a lazy media, even when their investigative work has been shoddy or biased.  Let's make sure that the facts get a little play, too.

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Posted at 12:12pm on Sep. 2, 2005 "U.S. Car Culture" Will Be Fine, Thank You

By Dan McLaughlin

Only Reuters could take a news story about gasoline shortages and price spikes and entitle it, "U.S. car culture is running on empty in storm's wake", as if people driving automobiles (or 'horseless carriages,' as I suppose they are called) is some newfangled innovation of those crazy cowboys.

I'd say people who believe that the automobile is a good thing are feeling pretty justified right now.  People in New Orleans who owned cars mostly got themselves safely out of town before the storm (unless they chose to stick around).  People who didn't, and were dependent upon on mass transit, wound up drowning, getting herded into the Superdome or the Convention Center or are still otherwise in harm's way, facing possible starvation as well as predation by looters and thugs.  Many of them had little choice, of course - they were poor people living in a big city.  But obviously, they did not wind up better off for not owning a car.

The lesson here is that anybody who can afford a car is crazy not to have one, the dreams of bicycle-riding environmentalists and central planners the world over to the contrary.  In addition to its other virtues, a car can get you out of harm's way without having to depend on the government in a time of crisis.

Also note that suicide bombers regularly target trains (London, Madrid, Tokyo), buses (London, Israel) and planes (9/11, the shoe bomber) - but rarely if ever go after motorists, who remain more dispersed and therefore less vulnerable except when passing bridges and tunnels.  

There remain those who resent the automobile, which puts the individual citizen literally in the driver's seat.  But sometimes, the ability to get yourself out of town without waiting for the government to get you there makes all the difference.

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